By David Brandt/The Associated Press
OXFORD — South Carolina knows Ole Miss’ Murphy Holloway better than any other team.
That doesn’t mean the Gamecocks could figure out a way to stop him.
The 6-foot-7 junior forward scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against his former team, helping Mississippi beat South Carolina 66-62 on Saturday night.
“(Holloway’s) a guy that is very important to our program and we all know that,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “I’m glad he was back in white tonight.”
The Rebels (14-7, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) led for most of the night but had to fend off a late South Carolina rally to win. Terrance Henry made a 3-pointer from the corner with 16 seconds left that sealed the victory.
Holloway had his seventh double-double of the season. In a strange odyssey, he left Ole Miss after his sophomore season in 2010, transferring to South Carolina to be closer to his family, which lives just outside of Columbia, S.C. He sat out last season because of NCAA transfer rules and then surprisingly decided that he wanted to transfer back to Ole Miss.
It wasn’t clear if Holloway would be allowed to play this season until the fall, when the NCAA and SEC cleared his return to the Rebels.
He’s been outstanding this season, epitomizing the Rebels’ hard-nosed approach. He came into the game averaging 10.2 points and 9.3 rebounds despite an unorthodox left-handed shooting stroke, relying instead on relentless energy around the basket.
Against the Gamecocks, he had another effective night, making 4 of 7 shots from the field while adding four assists and three steals.
Holloway said there was some good-natured jawing on the floor with his former teammates, but the game was mostly business.
“It wasn’t too emotional, but I’m glad we won,” Holloway said. “We needed that one.”
Nick Williams scored 12 points and Jelan Kendrick added a career-high 11 off the bench.
South Carolina (9-11, 1-5) was led by Malik Cooke’s 17 points. Brenton Williams added 15 as the Gamecocks lost for the fifth time in six games.
“We put ourselves in a position to win the game,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “But they made the play at the end and we didn’t. It was as simple as that.”
As expected, it was a half-court, deliberate matchup featuring two teams that specialize in defense and struggle to put the ball in the basket.
Ole Miss had 18 turnovers, but made up for that ugly number by shooting 49 percent from the field (24 of 49) and outrebounding the Gamecocks 38-28.
The Rebels led 60-53 with 5:55 remaining, but South Carolina made a run. The Gamecocks pulled within 63-62 with 48 seconds left, then Cooke missed a free throw that could have tied the game.
On the next possession, Ole Miss point guard Jarvis Summers found Henry in the corner for a wide-open 3-pointer, and it splashed through the hoop to seal the win.
Ole Miss was playing for the second time in less than 48 hours after an emotional loss to nationally-ranked Florida on Thursday. Kennedy admitted his team looked a little tired.
“Sometimes the Rebels win, sometimes the other team wins and sometimes the grind wins,” Kennedy said. “And tonight the grind was winning a little bit. We were a little lethargic.”
But the Rebels managed to push through the fatigue and now have a week to rest before travelling to face Alabama next weekend.
Ole Miss led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but had to settle for a 31-28 halftime lead after the Gamecocks rallied. Kendrick came off the bench to score seven points for the Rebels and did a serviceable job running the offense while Summers was on the bench with foul trouble.
South Carolina briefly took the lead early in the second half, but Ole Miss quickly regained control, using the bulk of Holloway and Reginald Buckner to control the paint. Buckner had three blocked shots.
South Carolina has played much better over the past week, beating Alabama on Wednesday after losing its first four SEC games. But the Gamecocks shot just 40 percent from the field (24 of 60) against the Rebels and gave up 14 offensive rebounds.
Read more in Sunday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.